They Live

They LiveRassler turned action hero Rowdy Roddy Piper stars in John Carpenter‘s sneaky sci-fi indictment of “unrestrained capitalism” during the Reaganomics era. It’s amid this ’80s backdrop that John Nada (Piper) rides the rails to Los Angeles looking for work and accidentally gets himself hooked up with a church choir that moonlights both as a militia group and amateur optometrists.

They rave about unseen forces at work in regular society, “THEY LIVE, WE SLEEP,” and it’s when Nada tries on their fancy shades that things get REAL interesting. The “Hoffman Lenses” (probably named for Albert Hoffman, the inventor of LSD) look like regular ol’ sunglasses, but they let Nada see all sorts of subliminal messages (OBEY, CONFORM, STAY ASLEEP) and some real-deal space aliens who, as he so delicately states, “look like their head fell in the cheese dip back in 1957.”

These multi-dimensional yuppie ETs from Andromeda have infiltrated all governments, talk to each other through their Rolex watches and bend humans to their will with promises of wealth and power. Roddy, of course, doesn’t know all that right away, he just decides its time to start kicking some freakazoid hiney — and DOES!

He also has THE most hellacious two-man brawl in film history with Keith David (as his reluctant buddy Frank). CineSchlockers should note the fisticuffs were originally five minutes LONGER and were inspired by The Duke‘s dust up in The Quiet Man.

Roddy also meets up with bright-eyed B-icon Meg Foster who works for the cable TV outfit responsible for beaming the alien’s brainwashing signal hither and yon. But Piper slugs it out all the way to probably one of the best endings of any film, although the TV version criminally cuts to the credits before Cibby Danyla can unleash her sizable contributions to the plot.

Two breasts. 64 corpses. Yuppies from outer space. Exploding TV studio. Bottle to the brainpan. Blind priest clubbing. Riot squad attack. Gratuitous nosy gay neighbors. Multiple gun battles. Roddy actually adlib’d the immortal line: “I have come here to chew bubble gum and kick ass — and I’m all out of bubble gum!”

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